This 2009 book is a ten year story of how a conservationist/game reserve owner of 5,000 acres in Zululand, South Africa takes in an unwanted herd of 7 elephants, which were causing trouble in another reserve in Africa. If he didn’t take them in all of them would have been shot and killed. He becomes their “friend” and by his kindness and gentle speech is able to communicate with them, mostly the matriarch elephant named Nana.
But Anthony writes in the opening Prologue:
“Make no mistake, the title of this book is not about me for I make no claim to any special abilities. It is about the elephants – it was they who whispered to me and taught me how to learn.” (page 1)
There are numerous, exciting adventures related in the book – poachers, escape of the elephants, illness, birth & death, another female orphaned elephant, bush fire, flooding. He grippingly relates stories of living peaceably with the other animals in the African wild – snakes (including the deadly Black Mambas, pythons, and cobras), crocodiles, Cape buffaloes.
Later Anthony and his French 2nd wife Francoise entertain guests in a new luxury lodge at Thula Thula with jeep or walking safaris, to view first hand the African animals such as giraffes, zebras, rhinos, leopards, hyenas, antelopes, monkeys, etc., including this herd of elephants.
What is extremely touching is how Anthony becomes an “elephant whisperer”, as he learns to communicate with this novel herd by watching their ears, eyes, trunk explorations, and noting their stomach rumblings. He keenly observed their behavior and admired their sense of intuition and caring for their young. He also mentions that they can communicate via infrasound vibrations(through unique stomach rumblings) over miles with each other, perhaps throughout the African continent (page 154 & 155).
Anthony’s dream was to preserve the neighboring land into a Royal Zulu game preserve for the Zulu tribes that live nearby, and he also founded The Earth Organization to care for wild animal and plant kingdoms. He and Spence have also written another book about Anthony’s courageous work to save the animals in the Baghdad Zoo during Desert Storm in 2003 (“Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo”, 2007).
When Anthony suddenly died last March 2, 2012 at age 61 of a heart attack, this elephant herd somehow knew and walked for miles out of the bush to stand outside of his home for 2 days, apparently to pay their respect for him, their deceased “friend”. How they knew he died was probably due to that special, spiritual bond that was created between him and this herd over 13 years. Indeed it was a fitting tribute to this admirable, kind man who saved their lives and took them without hesitation onto his large reserve to live peaceably in the wild once more.
After reading this book which helped me to understand and respect elephants a whole lot more, it also encouraged me to visit these magnificent pachyderms at the Reid Park Zoo in their new large enclosure Expedition Tanzania.